Second base is possibly one of the most overlooked positions on the diamond. When it comes to the defensive aspect of second, people look at the short throw to first, being on the right side of the field, and given how much time a second baseman has to make a throw, it can sometimes look like a position that only requires a player to knock the ball down and make the play. What isn’t seen is the necessity of backing up errant throws from left and center, or how important a quick turn for a double play is. Second base is a position that can cement a good infield in place.
The position also gets overlooked offensively more often that not. It is a position that doesn’t often have power hitters or hitters who lead the league in “wow” stats such as home runs or slugging percentage. Where the position may lack star players, it makes up for it in players that just play good baseball. DJ LeMahieu for the Rockies is the prototypical second baseman and what he does as a player is often overlooked or under appreciated when he should be praised as a player who does most everything right.
DJ Lemahieu: Last season LeMahieu put up the best offensive numbers of his career and earned him a pass to the all-star game, (even if it was just to replace an injured Dee Gordon, it was very deserving.) DJ hit .301 over the course of the year, and while he wasn’t putting up big power numbers or lighting the world on fire with extra base hits, he was getting on base and putting the ball in play. In 2015, LeMahieu led the Rockies in average and on-base percentage (.358). He also walked the most on the team (although let’s be honest, the Rockies don’t walk much to begin with). With a salary of only $517,000 last year, the Colorado Rockies couldn’t have asked for anything more.
One of the most improved aspects of DJ’s play, was his running game. With 23 stolen bases and only 3 caught stealing, it is a clearly heightened part of his game. Benefiting from his high average and on-base percentage, DJ was able to use his baseball IQ to take advantage of pitchers and record the highest stolen base percentage of his career while racking up 5 more stolen bases than his previous high in 2013, while also getting caught 4 less times.
DJ may have dropped off a little defensively after his gold glove 2014, but it was not enough to warrant concern, especially when he swung the bat the way he did. Posting the higher bWAR of his career at 2.3, LeMahieu was really worth about $12,000,000-$16,000,000 depending on the cost per win that you use. DJ also led the league in assists, and while the Rockies pitchers don’t strike out that many, allowing for more balls to be put in play by the opposition, he still needed to make the plays. DJ is much like Arenado on defense in the respect that he gets to a lot of balls that other second baseman wouldn’t get to. With his surprisingly large height, at 6’4″, DJ has range and length to make diving and sliding plays while still maintaining the ability to get up and throw the runner out.
DJ is nothing but reliable at second base and at the plate and I expect this to continue in 2016. DJ is versatile in the lineup and because he gets on base, coach Walt Weiss can put him anywhere. Expect DJ to move around the lineup, from the 2 hole down to the 8 hole and anywhere in between (except number 3 or cleanup) and he will have success. A slight drop in average is to be anticipated due to his hot start of 2015, but I believe he will still bat around .290 with an OBP of .350-.360. He will play a solid and reliable second base and he will play most everyday (he played 150 games last year, with all but one coming at second.) Overall, expect more of the same from LeMahieu.
While he may fly under the radar of the national media (as does the whole Rockies team) and even the radar of some more casual fans, DJ is an anchor for a team that hasn’t had a reliable second baseman in ages. In fact, the last Rockies player to start two consecutive opening days at second before DJ, was Mike Lansing all the way back in 2000. He might not set the stat book on fire, but reliable is exactly what he is and exactly what the Rockies need him to be.